HP. Stonji: Mélaina Cholé

On Mélaina Cholé, Hans Platzgumer and E Stonji (aka HP.Stonji) sound more than a little determined to prove there's life left in the IDM genre. It's the group's follow-up to last year's Metic and, if the two recordings sound much the same, that shouldn't surprise as four of the EP's six tracks reappear alongside ten new pieces. The group traffics in some long-established IDM conventions and the usual Autechre nods—abstract titles like “Nlad” and “Amgloc,” dark ambient atmospheres, prickly shards of detrital splatter, crystalline tones—yet, unlike many practitioners, the group wisely prevents its music from collapsing under the weight of programming excess, choosing instead to focus more on compositional matters. In fact, sometimes the group's beat structures are so simple and straightforward they verge on crude, yet the music's impact comes from the intensity of the attack—when the first snare hit appears in the blazing electro-funk burner “Metic,” for example, the punch is so visceral it feels like a snap in the face. Other strong uptempo pieces include the majestically soaring “Errorbeauty,” the equally buoyant “Hagry,” and “Redov,” a textbook HP.Stonji setting of chiming synths and whomping bass lines.

Wisely, the group expands its explorative scope on the more chilled pieces, many of them interludes. With its reverb-soaked piano ruminations and simple pinballing beat patterns, “Jedi” could easily pass for a piece by Twine, while the clinical rhythm structure of minimal throbs and blips in “Shar” suggests Raster-Noton. Perhaps the most memorable interlude is “Chld,” a meditative exercise in musique concrète that interlays the bright pings and strikes of mallet percussion with harp plucks.

Accompanying information touts the album as the “definitive Spezialmaterial so far,” an accurate enough claim as Mélaina Cholé is probably the release that most encapsulates the Spezialmaterial sound. That doesn't mean, however, that it's the strongest SM release to date—comparatively, it's less stylistically bold than Traject's Strengir Hrynja and Intricate's In Pectra—though it's still impressive enough. It's worth noting that the disc comes equipped with added materials, including performance footage of the group (though the club setting renders the footage too dark to see anything clearly except for the video projections on their raised laptop covers), plus videos by George Gaigl for “247” (abstract, vertigo-inducing photo swirls), “Meo” (fleeting image snippets from 24, Taxi Driver, et cetera) and “Onak” (grainy footage of a woman that's both sensuous and disturbing in its ambiguity).

April 2005